For the Canadian Friends of Hebrew University (CFHU), promoting the venerated Jerusalem institution is par for the course, but putting Israel on the map outside the narrative of “the conflict” is an achievement.
In 2013, CFHU managed to raise the bar in its outreach effort both on behalf of the university and for Israelis at large, something its staff are proud of.
Some highlights include getting iconic film actor Morgan Freeman to endorse the university as a proponent of knowledge for the betterment of humanity and launching a fundraising campaign with Kanpe, a humanitarian organization based in Montreal’s Haitian community, that will send Haitian students to Israel to study at Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s agricultural and public health schools
The university itself has also unveiled startling technological breakthroughs to help all humankind, furthering Israel’s reputation as “innovation nation.” This year, one of its computer scientists helped introduce the “Mobileye,” a camera system designed for cars that helps drivers spot road hazards, traffic lights and automatically adjust speeds for drivers.
The technology will become a mandatory feature for cars in most European countries next year.
Hebrew University also recently signed a co-operation agreement with China to establish a Confucius Institute on university grounds.
“The centre will operate in the spirit of Confucius Institutes established at leading universities around the world, which aim to promote Chinese language and culture to the public, and to promote the deepening of academic research into Chinese history and culture,” the university said in a statement.
Speaking with The CJN in a recent interview, CFHU president and CEO, Rami Kleinmann, said his organization’s work over the last year has helped push Israel’s brand more toward knowledge broker and away from one of “territories and conflicts.”
CFHU ran the very successful “Searching for the Next Einstein” campaign, which asked the worldwide online community to come up with the best ideas to help improve the world.
The contest garnered thousands of ideas from some 35 countries, including Bahrain, Lebanon, Syria and Pakistan, nations normally hostile to Israel.
“This was beyond belief,” Kleinmann said. “The name ‘Hebrew University’ was plastered all over this contest, but it didn’t stop people from submitting their good ideas. There is life beyond politics.”
According to Kleinmann, CFHU estimates that more than 143 million people were exposed to this campaign, making it one of the most effective tools to expose Israel to the world.
“In terms of the impact of bringing Israel and the university to [the international community] in a positive way, beyond our very important Jewish community circles and support base, this was one of the most important ways to broaden the conversation” about the Jewish state, he said.
To that end, the recognition by Freeman of the university’s contributions to the world was one of the greatest gifts Israelis could ask for, Kleinmann said.
“We realized that with Freeman, while we don’t have a formal partnership with him on a project, we do have a partnership in vision of what the university represents.”
The actor’s nod toward the university, Kleinmann said, is “helping to change the dialogue” on Israel.